Rude homecoming for Snowmass restaurateur Peter Nardi
SNOWMASS VILLAGE ” Embattled Snowmass restaurateur Peter Nardi has returned from his Mexico vacation to face the realities of a closed business, a criminal fraud investigation and a possible civil lawsuit with his former partner.
While he was in Mexico, his restaurant, Nardi’s Hideaway, was seized by the Colorado Department of Revenue in April for failing to pay $41,591 in state sales tax.
In a hand-written, five-page statement, Nardi told The Aspen Times this week that he had no idea back taxes were owed and that he never spoke with anyone at the Colorado Department of Revenue.
Nardi also accuses his silent partner, Michael Policare, of plotting to take over his business with Nardi’s former general manager, Kate Fitner.
When Nardi returned to the valley earlier this month, he filed a written complaint with Snowmass police alleging Fitner forged checks to employees and vendors bearing his signature while he was in Mexico.
While he was out of the country, Snowmass police were investigating claims that Nardi knowingly bounced checks to employees.
Snowmass Police Chief Art Smythe said allegations from both sides are being investigated and he is still waiting for documentation to back up the claims.
“We need that as a basis so we can send it to the DA’s office to determine if there is sufficient cause to do a criminal investigation,” Smythe said. “It’s all still an open investigation.”
Smythe noted that there have been numerous claims and counterclaims from the business partners, as well as employees, vendors and the town of Snowmass Village, who are all owed money from the failed venture.
Regardless of how the criminal investigation shakes out, Nardi said he will sue Policare based on statements he made in writing and to police.
In his statement, Nardi lays out his theory on how Policare, his 51 percent partner in the business, allegedly set him up for failure. Nardi said he felt hamstrung because he claims he had no control over the finances of the business and couldn’t write a check without approval.
Not true, said Policare, who told The Aspen Times he was purely an investor in the restaurant and wasn’t responsible for day-to-day operations like payroll, rent and state tax payments.
A few months ago, when he saw that Nardi was writing checks to cover expenses, including his own salary, and there was no money in the bank account, Policare said he distanced himself from the business. He said he went with Nardi to the bank and removed his name from the business account.
Policare said he then began spending more time reviewing the business’ accounts receivables and attempted to hold Nardi accountable for spending money that wasn’t there.
“Every time I went in there, it wasn’t pretty,” he said, adding he had to keep feeding money into the bank account to cover the checks written. “That’s when it went downhill … [Nardi] wouldn’t listen.”
Policare said the business is solely owned by Nardi, whose name is the only one on the LLC that controls the business and bears the responsibility to creditors. Policare said he has a notarized document that outlines the business deal he had with Nardi ” the profits from the restaurant and nightclub would pay back Policare’s original investment first and then the two partners would share further proceeds.
Policare said Nardi’s allegations are unsubstantiated.
“He ran the business, it was his LLC …,” Policare said. “What he says and what he can substantiate are two different things.”
Nardi said in his written statement that he recognizes that he is responsible for his 49 percent of the debt but Policare is responsible for the remaining amounts owed.
Nardi also said he can substantiate the alleged scheme to push him out, and has copies of all checks and online transactions as proof, according to his statement.
Policare said he learned of the revenue department’s seizure after it occurred and he didn’t know that Nardi had left for vacation to Mexico. Nardi claims he had Policare’s blessing to go to Mexico, and that Policare used his absence to get the restaurant shut down.
“I would have never agreed to let him go on vacation with the business going under,” Policare said, adding the failing economy was the main reason for the restaurant’s financial problems.
In the meantime, Policare and Fitner plan to open a new restaurant, Phoenix Grill, in the former Nardi’s Hideaway space on June 1. Policare said he has loaned Fitner the money for the new venture and she is the owner of the business.
“I lost a lot of money in this venture and maybe I can recoup some of it,” he said. “I think we can be successful with that operation with the right people, and if the economy comes back and with the right lease.”
Nardi’s lease with the landlord, Related WestPac, expired in April. Policare signed a new lease last week.
Policare, who lives in Aspen Glen near Carbondale and is retired from Paramount Pictures, said he met Nardi about 18 months ago. At the time he wasn’t aware of Nardi’s background, which includes a felony embezzlement conviction.
“Unfortunately, I did not know his past until I was in bed with him,” Policare said. “I made an investment and I made a mistake.”
Nardi also has regrets.
“Thank you to all of my friends who have continued to support me in a very difficult time,” he wrote. “I feel very blessed, and also want to apologize to anyone hurt by this mess. I am truly sorry.”
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